My long meditated and gestated review is up at STRANGE HORIZONS here. I am aware that this film promotes strongly negative and positive reactions – I would rather, on the whole, have any debate at Strange Horizons rather than here.


About rozkaveney

Middleaged, trans, novelist, poet, activist
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5 Responses to AVATAR

  1. thedorkygirl says:

    I love that site and am thrilled to know someone who’s been published there. Because it just is nifty!

  2. kiplet says:

    Not a debate, just a note: you’ve succeeded in tipping me from just the other side of “why bother” to “hmm, maybe I ought to find a babysitter.” Mostly because I’ve always found Cameron worthy of arguing with, despite True Lies; you make it sound like another tussle worth having.

    But also because I hadn’t known CCH Pounder was in it till your review. —Way to fail, marketing guys!

  3. ponygirl2000 says:

    I’m curious as to whether you’re going to address any of the comments at Strange Horizons to your review. Personally I felt it was strange that you made no mention of the use of Native American imagery (or rather Hollywood’s version of Native Americans) for the Na’vi.

    • rozkaveney says:

      I don’t know nearly enough to do that subject justice – I can accept that many people feel with a level of justification that is open to discussion that Cameron has to some degree appropriated material from various indigenous societies. Or, as you say, from the second and third-hand version of that material which has become part of Hollywood, part of science fiction and part of the general culture. I have indicated that there is a debate – I don’t feel that I have to discuss every nuance of the film until every reader is satisfied.

      I will, however, mention that I discussed Cameron’s handling of these issues with anthropologist friends who are significantly conflicted on the issue.

      You may feel that by making a film, which is being seen in Brazil and Indonesia, which says straightforwardly that the destruction of indigenous forest peoples is genocidal madness, Cameron is being an intrusive white liberal. I don’t; I regard that as more important than the dodgier nuances of his work.

      • ponygirl2000 says:

        Of course you’re under no obligation to discuss every aspect of the film – in the case of Avatar where it’s as much fascinating and exciting as it is problematic it helps to do some selective appreciation – I just think it’s difficult to discuss, as you do, the problem many are having with Jake as the Great White Saviour, without mentioning that it is very explicit who the people he is saving are meant to be, right down to the feathers in their hair and the war paint. I’d venture that the film would have benefited from a less obvious allegory since the viewer would be less likely to immediately think of Dances With Wolves or any number of movies where Native people function only to help the white hero on his journey. To put this in geekier terms – I can’t think of anyone who was bothered by the Ewoks (just annoyed) representing threatened indigenous forest peoples because they weren’t obviously referencing a specific group – they were aliens; on the other hand Jar Jar was both annoying and troubling because his dialect and mannerisms seemed modeled on stereotypical representations of black and Caribbean people. I found the Na’vi more interesting when they behaved like aliens or rode dragons rather than charging in on horseback with bows like a John Ford movie.

        I’m not trying to pick a fight and I’m certainly not saying genocide – yay! but what I do feel is that it is possible to say the things Cameron so obviously wants to say about imperialism and environmentalism without using cliches. Think about what it would mean in Brazil or Indonesia if Jake had helped the Na’vi without having to be the only one who could ride their dragon, the only one who could unite the tribes, the only one whose prayers were answered by their god.

        In any case, I will certainly side with a movie that wants to be innovative and entertaining and criticize capitalism over one that just wants to blow stuff up.

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